Civil Society and International Community condemn crackdown

The crackdown on Civil Society has received widespread condemnation both from local and international community.


The Committee to protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the unilateral news blackout which is slowly being imposed on the people by the state and said this could have a bearing on the credibility of the forthcoming referendum and harmonised elections in Zimbabwe.


"We condemn the raid on Ingwe Studios, which is a clear escalation of the authorities' attempt to cut Zimbabweans off from independent news broadcasts," said Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.

"The banning and seizure of radio sets calls into question the legitimacy of the upcoming referendum and election, which cannot be deemed to be free and fair if they are held under a news blackout."


According to United Nations (UN) news release three UN Special Rapporteurs also added their voice on the condemnation of the recent civil society clampdown.


"The on-going practice of arrests against the activists could seriously hamper the right to freedom of expression, € stressed the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue.

"The Zimbabwean authorities must ensure that such measures are applied in accordance with international standards and everyone is guaranteed the right to speak freely without fear of persecution, arrest and intimidation €.


The other experts who condemned the blitzkrieg are: Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.


The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemned the raids on NGOs and said that the trend indicates a sustained and escalating assault on NGOs involved in civic education, human rights monitoring, public outreach and service provision.


In a statement released on Thursday, February 21, ZLHR stated that the government of Zimbabwe will be held responsible for any harm inflicted on civil society organisations.


"Responsibility for the current crackdown lies squarely and fully on the three political parties that form the inclusive government.

"They have been either powerless to stop the attacks, directly or indirectly involved in the coordination and implementation of the attacks, or simply unconcerned with the challenges faced by those outside their ivory towers.

"Should further harm befall those within the civic sector as a result of such ongoing and future attacks, it is these three political parties that we will hold responsible. €


"Failure of this inclusive government to come to its senses will paint - and is already painting - a negative picture of the pre-election environment, and will be recorded accordingly for those in the region and further afield to take note, € added ZLHR in a statement.


The Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) denounced the clampdown on civil society and called on the police to exercise professionalism in the exercise of their duties and urged SADC to intervene.


"We call upon government to reign in these partisan officers who are acting as political Commissars and failing to execute their duties in a professional manner as spelled out in the Police Charter.

"We reiterate our calls for the intervention of SADC to expedite the elections road map and address our concerns about the urgent need for security sector reform, € read CCDZ statement.


In a show of seriousness and solidarity with its members and other networks, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition threatened to boycott the constitutional referendum and urge Zimbabweans to do the same.


"If the state continues to be uncooperative on these matters, civil society will be left with no choice but to be uncooperative with any Inclusive Government business, starting with the active Boycott and encouraging fellow Zimbabwe citizens not to participate in the 16 March 2013 referendum.

"Given the existing circumstances, the Coalition is of the strong view that there is no way that people can be expected to exercise free will, choice and participate meaningfully in any public political processes € read the Coalition statement .


The Coalition further urged the Government of Zimbabwe to take concrete steps to stop the police from harassing CSOs throughout the country.


The 350 member group further implored the police to immediately cease to implement Political party resolutions and the arresting NGO leaders, and instead focus their attention on apprehending perpetrators of violence.


The Crisis Coalition said this should start with the arrest of the arsonists and murders responsible for the death of 12 year old, Christpowers Simbarashe Maisiri.


Zimbabwe is expected to hold two critical plebiscites in 2013 with a constitutional referendum penciled for March 16 while a watershed election is expected in the second half of 2013.


Since the beginning of 2012, the state has upped its crackdown on NGOs with the latest being the raids on ZIMRIGHTS, ZPP, ZESN, COTRAD, NANGO and Radio Dialogue.

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